Compacts have their work cut out in today’s smartphone era, but premium models like the new Ricoh GR III still have their advantages. Michael Topham reviews the latest member in the GR-series
Ricoh GR III: Build and handling
It would have been easy for Ricoh to build the GR III around the same chassis as the GR II, but instead the body has been redesigned and made smaller. If you were to place it alongside GR models of the past you’d find it’s not too dissimilar in size to the GR Digital IV that had a 1/1.7in type sensor.
Creating a smaller GR has made it even more portable. Its size lends itself to being carried in your trouser pocket, but equally it can fit into a jacket pocket or even a top shirt pocket.
The magnesium alloy body plays its role in giving the GR III a reassuring solid feel, while the rubberised grip, which protrudes no further than the lens in its retracted off position, gives you enough to wrap your fingers around to get good purchase in your right hand. Very importantly for a compact, it feels great when it’s used single-handedly and your index finger is left to rest comfortably on a pill-shaped shutter button on the top plate.
Automatic lens covers such as the one used on the GR III can be prone to getting stuck. Though we experienced no issues with ours during testing it’s not a bad idea to use an air blower from time to time to prevent dust building up or dirt getting trapped within. Switching the camera on sees the lens extend quickly by approximately 12mm. Around the perimeter of the lens there’s a removable ring that requires a short turn to remove it prior to fitting the optional GA-1 adapter and GW-4 wide-angle lens.
Similar to previous GR models, the GR III doesn’t feature a focusing ring around the base of the lens like we’ve seen on other premium compacts. This is understandable from Ricoh’s point of view of trying to make the the camera as small as possible, however from a practical perspective you could argue that a control ring like you get on the Fujifilm XF10 would be beneficial.
A rather surprising move from Ricoh has been their decision to remove the pop-up flash, meaning you’re no longer able to add a blip of fill-in without attaching a flashgun or trigger system via the hot shoe. Ricoh has added TTL compatibility with Pentax flashguns should users feel the need to enhance their shot with supplementary lighting, however this does rule out working with an optical viewfinder at the same time.
The control layout at the rear of the GR III is very simple. Although changes have been made, they’re not so drastic that they’ll perplex existing GR users. The AEL/AFL/C-AF thumb switch has been removed and is replaced by an Fn/delete button. Rather than taking ISO control from the rear jog dial, its primary role is now to adjust exposure compensation. Those familiar with the GR II will remember the protruding exposure compensation rocker switch, which was quite easy to knock accidentally. The playback button replaces this, but thankfully it’s not as easy to hit by mistake.
Lower down there’s a new four way controller that provides direct access to ISO, macro mode, burst/self timer and white balance. The camera is setup to access these out of the box, but can be customised so the up, down, left and right buttons shift the AF point around the frame and the central OK button resets the AF point back to centre. The wheel around the outside is great for working your way through the GR III’s clearly laid out menu or scrolling through your shots in playback.
In manual mode the rear jog control controls shutter speed and the front dial that’s built into the top of the sculpted grip controls aperture, however this can be switched around if you’d prefer. Depressing the jog dial enters five user adjustable mode settings. These are useful for accessing things like the ten different picture modes, the focus mode, snap focus distance or file format in a hurry without having to find them from the main menu.
Very little has changed up on the GR III’s top plate. The fully rotatable mode dial has a lock button to prevent it being knocked, there are U1, U2 and U3 modes to recall saved settings and the green On/Off lamp can again be asked not to illuminate in bright green if you’d prefer it not to.